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The Mortar and Pestle, or Pilon, has been a staple within my family for making food and epis. I think of my heritage in relation to the preparation of Haitian food and spices. It also reminds me of my nostalgia in preparing meals for family celebrations. Food and its preparation represents the coming together of people. Food also represents a longing for home, or memories that represent a sense of comfort or identity.

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Amir Khadar:

An articles on Jellof rice wars:


When I saw the mortar and pestle next to Maggi Cubes it reminded me of Sierra Leonean food. Maggi cubes (from England) are probably the most used spice in Sierra Leonean, Specifically Krio cooking since we are an ethnic group colonized by English people. It is the main difference between our food & other West Africans. I spent a lot of time cooking with my mom from a very young age up until leaving for college. So almost every weekend my mom would call me into the kitchen to crush the Maggi, chop onions, cook rice, string skewers & do other things she didn't want to do. I distinctly remember the texture of the Maggi Cube & feeling it squish underneath the pestle is still one of my favorite feelings. When I think of our food, Jollof rice always comes up first, it allegedly started in Senegal, and now every West African has their own version. It's comparable to other party rices & gets its orange color from tomato paste, and sometimes red dye. Because of its presence in many locations, and the intermingling of Diasporic Africans in America, Jollof rice is probably the most debated topic amongst us? Once the Africans got on twitter the battle continued.

When I left for college I couldn't find the cubes I was used to, so I started using the larger bullion cubes, and I crushed them in my hands with the back of a spoon. It tasted very different than what i was used to, and it really upset me. These are the Maggi cubes we use, They don't really exist in the U.S, so my England family sends them to my Mom & when I go home I stock up.

Caroline Xia:

When I think of staple items in my grandma's kitchen and Chinese homes overall, there's always this big ass butcher knife that you use on everything

Jason and Jenna Greenberg:

Object #1 (Mortar and Pestle) •Central American cook--> spices--> Avocado

Anjali Shankar:

I want to thank you guys for giving people a chance to respond to this. My thesis project is very similar to this concept of being 2nd generation and wanting to find a sense of home or belonging while at the same time being so distant from what my parents or grandparents consider home.

“ Food and its preparation represents the coming together of people. Food also represents a longing for home, or memories that represent a sense of comfort or identity.”

It’s true. I remember my brother coming home from school one day and he was talking to my mom about his lunch. My mom had given him yogurt and rice with mango pickle. My brother said all the other kids thought that was a weird combination of food. He himself didn’t really care what the other kids thought. He just knew that it was a cultural thing. Yogurt and rice is one of the few things my family eats that would be connected with indian culture. Otherwise I don’t think we eat so differently from my American friends… or maybe we do? It's hard to say. In my mind there aren’t that many differences, but people seem to always point them out when they come over.

Briah Denizard:

This just reminds me of family get-togethers and spending time with my mom in the kitchen preparing the food. When I look at this, I see flashbacks of me sitting across my mom in the kitchen having some random conversation and watching my mom cook food. And also feeling excited seeing the rest of my family later at my uncle’s house.

Callie Louis:

The mortar and pestle with the maggi cubes and girofles (cloves) immediately brought my mind to the spicing of food in Haitian cuisine. The specific combination of chicken maggi cubes, green onions, and girofles made me think of chicken soup. However, the first thought that came to my mind before taking a closer look at the picture was djon djon rice since my mom sometimes uses djon djon maggi cubes and girofles to make the rice when we run out of the supply of dried mushrooms imported from Haiti by our family and friends.

Adele Denizard:

Makes me think of home because it reminds me of my grandma or dad preparing a meal. Also, reminds me of my childhood because I used to watch closely as my dad cooked.

Xena Brar:

The pilon has been apart of my memory for as long as I can remember. As a child I was always mesmerized by when my abuela would use it to cook blend spices or smash the tostones for the monfongo she was preparing. It is a staple in our household and our pilon has been passed down for generations ! Something I hope to continue one day.

As a whole, Identity based work is something so important to create in my eyes. Its shines a light on POC in the art world that are otherwise ignored or deemed lesser than the rest. Making work for our community is something so special , making work that doesn't speak to eurocentric traditions is SO important in order for the mindsets of others to modernize and move forward.

Diane Kim:

파 (green onion) reminds me of my mom’s cooking because that goes in 90% of Korean dishes Mortar and pestle reminds me of my paternal grandmother mashing up garlic to put into all different kinds of cooking. She told me that when my dad was younger, he used to love being the one to mash the garlic because he was obsessed with the smell. The smell of garlic also makes me feel heavily nostalgic since it goes in so many Korean dishes (Korea, China and Italy are the top 3 countries who use the most garlic in cooking per capita!)


I am familiar that many cultures use it in cooking but for some reason, I had a memory of us putting incense in one so I sent it in to my family group chat and my brother stated that he remembers that too! but my mother informed us that there is a separate vessel for that and its called a thimiato /thurible/censer (which is pictured below also) and that we "don't smash incense eleni" so now I am thinking that at one point in our childhood my brother and I where smashing things in the pestle that wasn't supposed to be in there (shhh don't tell my mother) but both of these were my yiayia's who was a funny lady and would have appreciated our efforts.

Leili Tavallaei:

The only way to make great rice is to grind saffron, use zereshk, and have golden tadig at the end.


My family is Chinese and i’ve been trying to make some of the more complicated dishes that is part of my family’s specific culture-- hakka/cantonese/teochew. The food in the southern/canto part of china is more light, focused on the flavors of the actual ingredient than the sauce. In chinese we call it dan 但. However, we’re really focused on soups. There’s always soup at the table for every meal and that was my favorite part of the meal, and what I miss the most, and what I cannot recreate myself. Chinese soup is packed with all these kinds of herbal medicinal things that I have no understanding of and don’t really know how to use or how to identify them. They make me think of my mother. Chinese chicken soup is among my most favorite. It is very different from western chicken soups as there is a lot of ginseng, uses a black chicken, and is filled with a lot of different herbs.

Karryl Eugene:

This made me think about green seasoning from Trinidad and Tobago. I don't know if that's the technical name of it but in everything my parents seasoned, this is always in it. It becomes ritualistic and the smell alone lets me know shits about to get seasonneddddddddddd. It's also not store bought, it is recipe made. Usually we get it from family members in NYC when we visit.


This reminds me of the Trinidadian “Tawa” we use to make roti or “buss up shut”. One of my fondest memories from growing up was making roti and curry on New Year’s day with my family. Food definitely brings my family together and helps us remember where we come from. Below are pictures of a “Tawa” and “buss up shut”.


Grace Kwon:

The mortar and pestle reminds me of how injeolmi (rice cake) is made in Korea.

Christien Vargas:

Seeing the injeolmi reminded me of gelatina de pata, which is made using the jelly of cows feet. Its mostly made in Colombia, Bolivia, and Argentina. I remember it from my childhood.


Divya Nayar:

This brings up memories from childhood of watching my mother and grandmothers occupying the kitchen and cooking. In India we have our own version of the mortar and pestle, I've only ever seen an aluminum version of it in Indian households. But in Kerala, my grandmother's sister has a huge stone one outside that I remember her using to grate leaves to make henna for me.


The mortar and pestle also reminds me of a very South Indian tool I grew up seeing and trying to use, a coconut grating stool. I would see my mom crouched on the stool cupping a coconut against it, grating the white of the coconut against the tool.

Lauren Jackson:

The first thing I’m connected to when I see this image is the Maggi cubes because it makes me think about food and love. I was introduced to Maggi cubes at the beginning of an important relationship and we often connected over preparing and enjoying food together. I remember the first time I tasted jollof rice using Maggi cube and how strong the flavor was. The food made me feel warm and loved. The Mortar and Pestle makes me think of two separate things. First, the way I used to see pointless expensive marble mortar and pestles in the houses of my white friends as a child. They would display them as a sort of decoration and I used to think about how artificial that was of them to display this mortar and pestle that they would never use or even know how to use. Second, I think about how worn my Aunt and Uncle’s wood mortar and pestle were in their kitchen, but I had never truly seen them use it.

Diana Eusebio:

Mortar and pestle remind me of cooking with my mom. We had specific cooking utensils in the house like the mortar and pestle for crushing garlic or the tostonera (pictured to the right) for making tostones from plantains. Each utensil had a very niche/specific role in the kitchen and were vital to making meals.

The Maggi boxes and green onion remind me of specific dishes my mom made. Green onions were added to ordinary “American” dishes and I thought this was normal. But none of my friends would put green onions in their scrambled eggs lol


The cubes of chicken bouillon is something I bonded over my friend with recently, we both have family from Hong Kong. Her grandma and my aunts in Hong Kong all use the exact same brand of 鸡精 (chicken bouillon), we were scheming and saying it’s the secret ingredient as to why their food tastes so much better than ours. I came into my current apartment and there was the exact same cube already on my shelf in the pantry, it’s used really universally and I’m constantly thinking about how the same thing can exist in so many lives in so many countries and generation. I remember it being the maggi brand but can’t seem to find any photos. At least I know for sure at home with my parents or my family in Hong Kong and Singapore we all have maggi sauce - google images aren’t really providing the same photos I remember in my head - it’s a lot of red and yellow


Jasmine Park:

I’m really drawn to the scallions in this image. Since coming to college, having to cook for myself, and having a Korean roommate who understands our sometimes smelly foods, I find myself always buying scallions at the grocery store. We probably have 3 bunches in the refrigerator at any given time that are in various states of wilted. When my mom was in Korea over winter break two years ago and my dad and I were grocery shopping, we argued over how many scallions we had at home and whether or not we needed more. I insisted that we already had some but he tossed them in the grocery cart anyways, saying that Korean food always uses scallions so we would need it anyways. I don’t use all the scallions I buy but I keep buying them anyways.

Samiha Alam: